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August 16, 2012
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‘Fantasy Environments’ at Thee Eye

By Jim Duncan

“Ear” by Rachel’s Buse, now showing at Thee Eye.

Where can a person find affordable art in Des Moines that is also worth collecting? That’s probably the toughest question I’ve been asked on this beat. In popular lore, art festivals are such places. In reality, prices at much-hyped festivals have crept up faster than algae in a heat wave. I prefer the odds at young blooded galleries and in organizational shows.

Ian Miller’s Thee Eye Gallery has a knack for finding affordable quality. Currently it’s hosting a show by Rachel Buse, a Nebraskan who moved to Des Moines four years ago after meeting a musician on the Internet. (They are still together.) She’s a farsighted sculptor, broadening her horizons at all compass points. She’s joined Des Moines Social Club, Art Noir and Des Moines Art Center’s (DMAC) docent program. She teaches for ASAP, an inner city arts workshop for elementary school kids. She founded Art Beacon, a comprehensive website for local art criticism.

Buse builds large paper and fabric structures that exaggerate “fantasy environments.” Her subjects range from rotary phones to lovable freaks. Thee Eye’s opening was a grand affair. The artist completed “Inverted Mountain,” a two-story installation she’d been laboring on all week. The place was packed with enthusiasts and buyers. Buse’s sculptures are all priced at $200 or $500 and have been selling quickly.

“Some think I undervalue my work, but I believe $200 and $500 is an investment. It’s enough for me to make more art, too. These are my babies, and they take up a lot of space. I like knowing they’re going to loving homes. I view it as a partnership,” she explained.

“Inverted Mountain” plays through Aug. 25. In September, Buse will ride a mobile sculpture through Art Stop and Project Spaces’ three different weekends, and art districts. She’ll also parade sculptures through Evelyn Davis Park with ASAP, and work on DMAC’s “Living Pollock’s Life” project.

Iowa Watercolor Society’s 35th Annual Exhibition fills every gallery, hallway, nook and cranny at the Ankeny Art Center. Watercolors even hang in the bathrooms. I counted 65 paintings by 47 artists at prices ranging from $100 to $3,000. Artists included revered masters such as Richard Leet, successful full-time artists like Mary Beth Heikes, art fair veterans like Jan Vander Linden, and hobbyists. No beginners, though; every artist has been accepted to at least three previous shows.

Some stood out. Jac Tilton showed pieces that stylized a superb photographer’s chronicles of crumbling rural landscapes. Linda Fries demonstrated an Asian aesthetic regarding nature and transience. Susan Baer showed that watercolor could be controlled to create intricate patterns, a task usually left to software these days. Marvella Blome expressed intricate detail. Leet, as always, dazzled with his minimalist expression. This plays through Sept. 27.

“Global Views: The Art of New Iowans” opens Aug. 27 at Heritage Gallery and runs through Oct. 4. Curator Mary Brubaker says the show is a 21st century equivalence of older traditions.

“Ever since Gov. Robert Ray welcomed ‘the boat people’ fleeing war during the 1970s, immigrants and other foreign-born people have brought their artistic talents to Iowa as our ancestors did with Norwegian rosemailing, Czech painted wooden eggs, Amish quilts and Mexican pottery,” she said.

Language barriers created serious challenges.

“They come from all walks of life. Amer al Obadai from Iraq was a well-known professional. Peter Coyle was a school administrator in England. Others worked in menial and exhausting jobs. Some married into western families. Some were adopted. It was hard to convince some that their art is worthy of an exhibition,” Brubaker said, adding that the show demonstrates mutual benefits for the artists and Iowa.

“Art is an international language and Iowa has become more multilingual because of these families,” she said.

A public reception will be held on Sept. 14. CV

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